Monday, 23 March 2015

The Best Place To Have An Anxiety Attack

Viti Levu, Fiji

First and foremost, Fiji is the best place to have an anxiety attack; I say that because it’s the truth. For any Aussie who might be planning their first trip through the duty free section at the airport, and who might be finding themselves a little on the edgy side, try out this beauty of the Pacific. I did, and I’ve not but great memories. My first overseas trip happened back in 2013, and taking into consideration that this wasn’t going to be anything like home, I looked into everything ‘traveller friendly’ so that I’d have peace of mind. However, that’s when one learns that this is Fiji; an overhaul of bliss is guaranteed the moment you step off the plane.    

Viti Levu, Fiji (taken 2013)

Viti Levu, the largest island in the archipelago, is the entry point and Nadi is where you’ll start your Pacific adventure. Having read many great things on Trip Advisor, I stayed at Bamboo Backpackers, whose doors are open to everyone. Upon my arrival (they picked me up at the airport) they were so open and welcoming and for that I was truly grateful (remember, anxiety attack).

Viti Levu, Fiji (taken 2013)

Every turn I made, there was a big smile belonging to someone who was out to make my stay more comfortable and memorable, with a variety of activities and tours on offer; if you’re travelling on a budget I strongly recommend Bamboo. The facilities are a little behind the times (when I was there but renovations were in the works) but the employees are wonderful and they make good banana pancakes and pineapple salsa. Additionally, if you’re hungry for a more diverse menu, Smugglers down the road has an open restaurant that’s equally as inviting.
The largest island does come with its sights and you should by right see all of them. To make this happen I bought a spot on Feejee Experience, a hop-off/hop-on tour that’s more than deserving of all the nice things said on Trip Advisor. With a good group of the travel-minded, I took a ride on the ‘Triple Treat’ which included some island hopping, but it all began with four days on Viti Levu.

Viti Levu, Fiji (taken 2013)

Nadi (pronounced Nahn-dee) is a town on the rise which you’re more than like to pass through. It’s not in your face and very easy to get around, with a few sights and souvenir shops to have a peek at (a lot of what’s on offer is mass produced so don’t expect anything unique). Of the positivos there’s a market to walk around where you’re like to find many a smiling face, along with plenty of national produce (especially kava roots), and outside of town you’ll come across the Sri Siva Subramaniya Swami Temple. This Hindu temple is the largest in the southern hemisphere and is a pallet of colour to awe at. There are conditions of entry but we were able to get a few good shots from the front door. Nadi is nice, but you won’t need a lot of time there.      
Moving out of town, Feejee Experience introduced us to some of the islands nicest locations and experiences, such as Natadola Beach (good for horse riding, said the horse smuggler in our group), the Sigatoka Sand Dunes where sand boarding was on offer (bit steep for my liking) and the fire dancing at Mango Bay Resort where the frogs were plentiful. 

Viti Levu, Fiji (taken 2013)

One experience I’ll always keep close is the Uprising Trek; this walk took us up into the forest to an inland waterfall the gutsiest of us were welcome to jump off (my sister-in-law forbade me from doing this). The walk itself was demanding and with its share of water crossings (six, I counted), but the destination was certainly worth it.

Viti Levu, Fiji (taken 2013)

Some of us did it in only our thongs (flip-flops to non-Aussies) or barefoot, and at first I found this a little ‘dis-ingenious’, but since my shoes were drenched I took the plunge on the way down; my feet DID NOT end up bleeding which I will forever find a miracle. At the bottom we were treated to a stroll through a river of mangroves (the filming location for Anaconda: Hunt of the Blood Orchid, for lovers of bad cinema) before being picked up in a boat. We spent the night at the Uprising Bay Resort which is worthy of a second stay.
As well as nature, Feejee Experience is about bringing its passengers to the communal side of Fiji. After passing through the capital, Suva (where we left three of our number), we spent some time in a boarding school where the students and teachers were very welcoming, before moving onto a village where we partook in a ceremony that involved kava. This was my first time drinking kava, and I can’t say that I loved it (to me it was like the water you clean potatoes in, and the locals are aware of this), but I was a guest and I didn’t want to disrespect my hosts; two shallow bowls is all you’ll swallow.

Viti Levu, Fiji (taken 2013)

A big lunch was made for us, consisting of many native dishes which were all nice, and we were offered the opportunity to ride on a bamboo raft, which I naturally took up. 

Viti Levu, Fiji (taken 2013)
Viti Levu, Fiji (taken by Barbara Sfeir Sabbatino with Ashleigh Moore's cam, 2013)

On a more 'just so you know' side of things, hats and sunglasses are frowned upon during the school and village visit and we were required to wear dresses (for the ladies no doubt) or sulus, which could be picked up easily in Nadi (ask for a souvenir sulu when making the purchase). Our visits to the school and village stand to benefit the local community so be sure to donate some school supplies and buy a souvenir; it all goes to a good cause.
With our time coming to an end, we spent our last day passing through Lautoka to the Sabeto Hot Springs which was a lot of fun. We first spent some time in a mud pool (mudding up to which there is no shame in doing, especially on a hot day) which was relaxing, before moving onto the hot springs (think again if you happen to have extensive sun burns by this point). Being amongst the natural side of the country and its people was a great way to end this leg of the adventure.       

Viti Levu, Fiji (taken 2013)

One of the real benefits of Feejee Experiences is that you can take your time, if that’s your desire, and there’s no fear of getting screwed around or hurt. When we travel, a sense of vulnerability is always going to be factored in, but in Fiji I felt very safe. With the exception of a bad reaction to the kava, I have oh so very little to complain about. Fiji is majestic and without its regrets. 



Thursday, 12 March 2015

Across The Sea

These words have been a long time coming, so I'd like to kick it off with a quote from one of the world's most influential authors.

'I was surprised, as always, be how easy the act of leaving was, and how good it felt. The world was suddenly rich with possibility.' - Jack Kerouac, On The Road
Doguboyzit, Turkey (taken by Max Brooking, 1988)
Kyber Pass, Pakistan (taken by Max Brooking, 1988)
It's already been established that your good Sheep is Australian and we children of Straya, much like the people of Madagascar, New Zealand, Japan etc. are all awarded a similar disadvantage; we're water locked.

International travel isn't easily achieved for us (not like everyone in Europe for example) but when it is, so much can run through us; fear, excitement, sadness and many others and all for various reasons. That said, at the end we're all left feeling a great deal of satisfaction and that's what we pack our bags for, isn't it?
Persepolis, Iran (taken by Max Brooking, 1988)
Petra, Jordan (taken by Max Brooking, 1988)
The Sheep has only left his shore twice and both times it was rewarding, and he thinks it's time to share his stories, as others have with him. These are the seeds growing within us that we want to see bloom. That's pretty much said with the pics of the Middle East a loving and mad uncle was happy to lend.

So, it's the hope you good readers stick around for the tales to come. You're still gonna hear about Australia, but it was always the plan to go far and that's where we finally are.

Happy travels!

Tuesday, 3 March 2015

One Of The Best Drives You'll Ever Take

The Great Ocean Road, Victoria

Road trips come in their forms, but I speak confidently when I say that the Great Ocean Road in Victoria is one of the best drives you’ll ever take. Many roads will lead one to wonder, but this road is the wonder. A crowd favourite, this is where you’ll have your fill of beautiful beaches, ideal surf turf and plenty of opportunities to unwind, provided you avoid it during Schoolies Week. I’ve done this day long drive several times and the road never ceases to amaze.
The Apostles, Victoria (taken 2014)
Standing as the world’s largest war memorial, the road was constructed by returned soldiers between 1919 and 1932. Its length being at 243 km, it reaches between Torquay and Allansford and includes towns such as Lorne, Apollo Bay and Wye River, but they’ll be saved for another day. This post is all about the natural and we’ll start from Allansford’s end.
The first few stops you’re like to make (and do your research first because they can oftentimes be overlooked) include the Bay of Martyrs, the Grotto and London Arch, formerly Bridge.
Bay of Martyrs, Victoria (taken 2014)
The Grotto, Victoria (taken 2014)
London Arch, Victoria (taken 2014)

These little spots are worthy of your time and each offers something different in the visual department. In regards to London Arch I’d hurry to see it before anymore limestone breaks off of it.
Then there’s Loch Ard Gorge which I for one find to be a favourite. This spot deserves maybe an hour of your time simply because of the peacefulness you’re like to find. There are stairs to descend and corners to turn so take them all slowly and you’ll appreciate it all the more. Additionally, this is the site of one bit of history that’s followed me around for many years. 

Loch Ard Gorge, Victoria (taken 2014)
On June 1st, 1878, the clipper ship Loch Ard ran ashore on nearby Muttonbird Island after the fatal intervention of some sea fog. The only survivors were Tom Pearce, a 15-year-old English crew member and Eva Carmichael, a 17-year-old Irish girl travelling to Melbourne with family. Through arduous circumstances both youths made it to the shore of what is now called Loch Ard Gorge and eventually to safety. As for the ship and its cargo, the only thing recovered was the porcelain Loch Ard Peacock which is now on display at the Flagstaff Hill Maritime Museum in Warrnambool. This in turn is the type of story that makes me want to take up writing historical fiction.
With the first of my favourites done and dusted, we then come to one of the greats of Australian tourism; the Apostles. These grand limestone stacks stand above the hammering surf and offers everyone the most majestic of views. It’s just about impossible to get a bad shot of these marvels so don’t feel like you need to run all over the view point to make something happen. And for the love of the gods, DO NOT CLIMB OVER THE RAILING!

The Apostles, Victoria (taken 2014)
Originally there were twelve Apostles, without doubt named for the disciples of Jesus Christ, but in recent years nature has begun to take its tole and the stone has started to break off, much like what’s happened at London Arch. Is this disappointing, I’d say so, but the Apostles still something to plan a trip around. Dusk and dawn are great times to come by and there are helicopter rides on offer too.    
The Great Ocean Road, Victoria (taken 2014)
I truly urge you to make the Great Ocean Road a priority on your great Australian journey. It’s not but nature in its truest form.